AUGUSTA — Biologists and representatives from a bird rehabilitation facility successfully released two eaglets on Friday into the wild near the Kennebec River.
In May, the two eaglets were rescued from their nest in Bangor after their parent eagles fell ill.
The male adult was electrocuted after flying into a power line, while the female adult was treated at Avian Haven in Freedom and eventually released into the wild. Both had ingested a toxin, biologists said. The eaglets also were sent to Avian Haven for rehabilitation.
Shortly after the adult female was released in June, it was seen in Bangor in the company of a new adult male. Although experts at Avian Haven attempted to encourage the female eagle and its eaglets to bond while they were being rehabilitated, it was unsuccessful, they said.
A site near the Kennebec River in Augusta was chosen for Friday’s release. The eagles had been hatched in Bangor, but biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said that eagles in the Bangor area seemed to be at more risk of death and injury than those in the Kennebec River corridor. The presence of more food and less competition for that food along the Kennebec were listed as key reasons for the decision.
Sharon Fiedler, a nature photographer who has taken scores of photos of the eaglets’ parents, was on hand for the release.
“The eagle release went well, with both flying off and leaving us all speechless,” Fiedler said in an email. “They kept going and didn’t look or come back. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.”
Erynn Call, a DIF&W biologist who specializes in eagles, explained the timing of the release in a department news release.
“Fall is one of the best times of year to release young eagles as this is when birds of this age group leave their nest sites and seek out areas of abundant food across the state,” Call said. “The Kennebec River is a known foraging hotspot for eagles, and with less competition for food, it can give young birds a better chance at survival.”
According to the release, the birds, which many would not necessarily recognize as bald eagles, will gain the trademark coloration of the species over time.
“The current darker coloring of the juvenile birds will slowly transition over the next five years to the recognizable white feathers on the tail and head,” the release stated. “Because of newly formed flight feathers and their darker coloring, subadult eagles can appear larger than adults and often are misidentified as golden eagles. “
On Thursday, DIF&W officials informed the Bangor Daily News that the media wouldn’t be allowed to be present when the eaglets were released. The release site is on private property, and there was some concern that too many people being present for the release might make the birds uncomfortable.